Swiss officials have taken part in a two-day international conference on the future of the Caribbean state of Haiti.This content was published on July 20, 2004 - 12:01
Donor nations pledged $1.1 billion (SFr1.37 billion) to help rebuild a country which has suffered from 15 years of political and economic instability.
The International Donor Conference on Haiti, which wrapped up in Washington on Tuesday, discussed the country’s short- and medium-term development needs.
Haiti has been facing a political and humanitarian crisis since last February's ousting of its former president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, and severe flooding in May.
The current Prime Minister, Gérard Latortue – who has the backing of the United States – has managed to calm the political situation over the past two months.
But a new report into the country’s needs - the Interim Cooperation Framework (ICF) - estimates that Haiti will need $1.37 billion (SFr1.68 billion) over the next two years to help it get back on track.
Switzerland is one of the countries that helped the Haitian government draw up the ICF report and is already active in several humanitarian and aid projects in Haiti.
Most of the projects provide relief to the population, which is struggling to cope with high food prices and a weak infrastructure following the unrest since the departure of Aristide.
The Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) has been carrying out projects in conjunction with the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP).
And the country has already given around SFr2 million in aid to the Caribbean state.
“In comparison with the more restrained attitude of the larger countries, Switzerland comes out well,” said Guy Gauvreau, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) country director for Haiti.
The SDC has also been supporting on-site work by Swiss charities such as Helvetas, HEKS and Caritas.
The SDC’s humanitarian aid expert, Toni Frisch, says the SDC will mainly be concentrating on renovating schools, setting up workshops and on its participation in the WFP.
Frisch said there was also a good chance that a Swiss project to rebuild roads in the flood-ravaged southeastern part of Haiti - to be financed by the World Bank - would come to fruition.
“But everything takes time,” said Frisch.
Also in Haiti is the Swiss-run International Committee of the Red Cross, which has been providing valuable medical aid.
The Donor Conference, which was supported by the World Bank, as well as the Inter-American Development Bank, the United Nations and the European Union, discussed how to support the Haitian government in its quest to turn the country’s fortunes around.
One of the government’s main priorities for the next two years is to create 750,000 jobs.
Also under discussion were moves to rebuild the country’s infrastructure, which has almost collapsed following the unrest of the past 15 years.
This includes reviving such basic services as clean water, schools, hospitals and electricity.
80% of the population in Haiti live under the poverty line of $150 a year.
47% of children under five are malnourished.
The average wage is less than SFr500 a year and the life expectancy is around 53 years old.
The main languages are Creole and French.